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Islamic State Widow Shames IS Leaders

Militants with the Islamic State group are seen after placing their group's flag on a hilltop at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria.

Militants with the Islamic State group are seen after placing their group's flag on a hilltop at the eastern side of the town of Kobani, Syria.

The wife of a dead Islamic State fighter has voiced rare criticism of the terror group’s leaders.

The woman, who calls herself al-Muhajirah, posted a letter online.

In the letter, she complained about the treatment of widows and families of dead fighters. The letter has been shared widely on pro-Islamic State social media sites.

Public criticism of Islamic State leaders is rare. Critics face severe punishment, including beatings, torture and execution.

The letter is titled, "A Reminder to the Leaders of the Islamic State." It was first posted on January 27 on, says the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI. The Washington-based group monitors jihadist online activity.

Anat Agron is a researcher at MEMRI. She says that such criticism is “almost never found in such a widely circulated document. In the past, IS members have publicly criticized aspects of life in the Islamic State, however, normally such posts were swiftly deleted.”

Some men who have left the terror group also have recently criticized the poor treatment of widows of IS fighters. The men talked with researchers from the U.S.-based International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. They discussed how widows were forced to marry other fighters soon after their husbands had been killed in battle.

The men’s statements were published in the journal Perspectives on Terrorism in December. The article said the Islamic State leaders were not following the normal Sharia practice of having a woman wait before remarrying. The four-month, 10-day waiting period ensures that the woman is not pregnant by her former husband.

The Sharia practice, called Iddah, is considered a woman’s right, and allows her time to grieve.

In her online letter, widow al-Muhajirah tells IS leaders: “Every wife of a martyr ... is under your care. ... Fear Allah in the way you cater for her needs. She is your responsibility and all her needs now rest on your shoulder. … This is your trust, she is under your care, so do not abandon her.”

Observers say women are used as a form of currency by the Islamic State. Foreign and Syrian male recruits are told they will be given wives as well as homes and money. Observers say those promises can be a major reason for joining the Islamic State, especially for young men from poor communities in North Africa.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

VOA correspondent Jamie Dettmer reported this story from Rome. Ashley Thompson adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

widow - n. a woman whose husband has died

torture - n. the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something​

abandon - v. to leave and never return to (someone who needs protection or help)​

currency - n. a specific kind of money​

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